When I look at my tired old breasts now I see vestiges of what they once were – what they could be. Light and empty, they hang there useless against my chest. I miss breastfeeding. When I see both new babies and older toddlers at their parent’s breast for nourishment and comfort, I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach. My almost-2-year-old still asks for milk at bedtime every now and then, even though It’s been over a month since we weaned. She asks with a sadness in her voice, because she knows I have no milk left to give. Instead, I let her rest her hand on my chest and I listen as her mouth starts making that nursing sound into the darkness. She would still derive so much comfort and connection from breastfeeding.
There have been very few moments since weaning that have made me feel thankful for being done with breastfeeding. Ocassionally I’m happy to have a bedtime to myself, but mostly I just miss laying with her anyway, and my poor wife still struggles with being our daughter’s second choice. I listen through the monitor as she drifts off to sleep next to my wife, muttering “mommy on other side the door? Mommy missing?”
I thought I’d be thankful for the freedom of having my body back, but all that freedom afforded me was the ability to have more than one drink before bedtime, and it turns out that two drinks makes me feel rather nauseous now. I’d much rather be able to feed and comfort my child with my body than to have my body all to myself for the purpose of having more booze.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post – I’m just writing down my feelings. I don’t regret weaning, per say, but I do now question my motives for weaning when we did. From the moment breastfeeding started to become second nature to us, I assumed we’d continue on until she weaned herself. I assumed that would be well after the age of 2. But I wanted to help my wife feel like less of a “second” parent. We felt that ending the breastfeeding relationship that bonded us together so powerfully would create more of a level playing field between parents. But the truth is, I’m still in the role of primary caregiver. I spend way more time with our daughter, and that makes me more in-tune with her needs, and that makes me the natural first choice to come to when she needs something.
I also question myself now for being motivated by social pressure. I felt it as soon as she turned one. People were often surprised to hear that our daughter still nursed to sleep (or nursed to sleep at all, since that’s frowned upon by more conservative, by-the-book parents). When I expressed some mixed feelings about weaning, a family member told me that she was too old for that anyway. I heard a lot of comments about independence, and how breastfeeding a toddler was effectively keeping her dependent on me, like I just couldn’t let my baby go even though she wasn’t a baby anymore.
I know there’s no turning back, and I’m ok with that. I’ll always let her rest her hand on me, where she once got all of her nourishment, comfort, and that rush of love hormones. I’ll always smile when I hear that tongue clicking noise in the night, as her muscle memory lives on. And when she looks at my chest now with love in her expression and asks to plant a kiss on a part of me that was always there for her, my heart will always melt into a puddle on the floor. Despite society’s perverse warning that breastfeeding toddlers and older children will leave them with inappropriate memories of nursing at their mother’s breast, I know that my daughter has happy memories of our breastfeeding relationship, and I hope she’ll always feel that special, nourishing, connection to me.